The Beetle as a Metaphor


The Beetle as a Metaphor for Maverick Leadership. I was sitting in my garden the other day, enjoying the sunshine and watching the wildlife. Suddenly, a beetle crawled across the path. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, beetles are fascinating creatures. They are strong, durable, and adaptable. They have evolved to survive in a wide range of environments, and they are able to overcome many challenges. 

In many ways, beetles are an excellent (if cheesy) metaphor for leadership. Bear with me on this …

Like beetles, Maverick leaders have a strong core. Where the beetle’s core is soft, it is all its vital organs. It can’t function without that core. The same goes for Mavericks – I would argue they can’t function without strong values and principles at the core of their leadership practice. These values guide their decisions and actions, and they provide a foundation for their leadership approach. Values such as integrity, honesty, and fairness are essential for any leader who wants to be successful. And no, these aren’t “soft” skills. Ever tried maintaining your integrity in the face of bullying or discrimination in the workplace? Try that and tell me these skills are soft.  

They are anything but!

In addition to strong values, Maverick leaders also have a wide range of competencies. This range is wider than the norm, because we Mavericks offer compound interest on our skillset. For example, when you look at competencies like communication, problem-solving and decision-making, a Maverick Leader will seek to take a wilfully independent line, which very often shakes things up a bit. This difference will in turn help those leaders to flex their message to make it more accessible. Leaders who are able to effectively communicate with their followers, solve problems, and make decisions are more likely to be successful.

Just like the carapace of a beetle protects its soft body and it requires both elements to survive, the competencies of a leader protect their values and are likewise both required. When faced with challenges, effective leaders are able to draw on their competencies to defend their values. They are able to stay focused on their goals, even when things get tough.

The Importance of Wilful Independence

As I mentioned above, Maverick leaders are wilfully independent[1] and this counts as another strength. This means that we are not afraid to think for ourselves and to make our own decisions. We are not afraid to go against the grain, even if it means going against the popular opinion. Here again, our values of integrity and honesty come into play (and sometimes a little too much for our own good as we are fearless in speaking truth to power).

Wilful independence is essential for our style of leadership because it allows leaders to be creative and innovative. It allows us to see new possibilities and to come up with new solutions to problems. It also allows us to be courageous and to stand up for what they believe in, even when it is unpopular. So this independence is both our carapace AND our softer interior.

By now you will have found the metaphor strained, I am sure. Beetles are strong, durable, adaptable, and wilfully independent. Effective Maverick leaders have all of these qualities. We have strong values, a wide range of competencies (enhanced by the intersection of those competencies), and we have the courage to stand up for what we believe in.  

The point is not the carapace, nor the softer inside. It is that the combination of the two makes for a living breathing creature who has been effective at what it does for millennia. By evolving to reflect their circumstances, and by pursuing their wilfully independent paths, the beetles of the world have survived. They are, however, increasingly endangered by the path humankind insists on pursuing, and pursuing ever faster.  

As Maverick leaders, we combine our skills, expertise and courage to good effect. How would it be, if we combined together, around the world, to bring about change that drives forward successful organisations, but not at the expense of the world around us?  

If you want to be an effective leader (or you think you may be a Maverick leader) then maybe you should strive to emulate the beetle. You should also strive to protect it. And us all.


[1] Judith Germain has been defining Mavericks as wilfully independent since 2005.